Because We Love Children

Ahoy, Matey! Yee-Haw! Let’s Play Ball!

Greetings! I do hope all my fellow Americans had a wonderful Independence Day. God Bless America!

As summer heats up, so does that great American pastime, baseball. When you and the kids aren’t watching or playing baseball, how about opening up a delightfully imaginative book about the sport? Take a look at Pirates at the Plate. The story and illustrations are by Mark Summers. The actual words are written by Aaron Frisch.

This book caught my eye right away with it’s detailed scratchboard illustrations. The picture on the cover reminds me a bit of Norman Rockwell’s famous illustration: “Gossip”.

The Pirates “arrr” facing the cowboys in this rollicking story. But that’s not just their team  names. No sir. They are  pirates and cowboys! Some of them be fictional, like Hopalong Cassidy, Long John Silver, and Captain Hook. Some of them be real, such as Wild Bill Hickok. And don’t forget Calico Jack, the pirate who designed the Jolly Roger.

Pirates at the Plate is a fun read-aloud. My third graders kept trying to figure out just what was going on. The ending encourages our youngsters to get involved in good old-fashioned play where imagination is at bat.

Maybe you and your kids will be inspired to make some of your own scratch illustrations. You might learn more about the characters in the book. Perhaps you’ll head outside for your own game or two. Let your imagination soar!

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Close a Screen, Open the World, Part 2

I LOVE books. Books on screens are okay. And I am glad they are available. But for young children (and for me),no

reading experience is quite as satisfying as a good book. I love to feel the book in my hands and physically turn each page. I love the fact that I can take a book anywhere with no need of an electrical charger or outlet.

One book that caught my attention recently is called Press Here by Herve’ Tullet. Press Here is a perfect picture book: simple and engaging. When I put this book in my library corner at school, everyone wanted a turn.

Press Here starts with one yellow dot on a white background. Each page gives the reader a new instruction to
do to the dot(s). One yellow dot becomes two dots, then three, all in primary colors. By following the tapping instructions, the reader is able to “make” the dots multiply,shift from one side of the other, turn out the lights, and turn the lights back on. Finally, the reader is empowered to clap the dots bigger and bigger until at last, the reader is back to one yellow dot. Then the reader is invited to start over.

This book could be followed up by some creative activities. You could give your child(ren) red, yellow, and blue paint.
Have them make dot art, using a thumb or finger. If you have time, try asking the kids to make one picture, then write
instructions at the bottom of the picture, such as “Press Here”. The next picture shows what happens when the instructions are followed. The children use the book for ideas on what would happen.

Happy reading and painting!

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Baa, Baa, Green Sheep

At least, the green sheep would say, “Baa, Baa”, if we could just find her. For bleating out loud, where is that elusive green sheep? That, my picture book loving friends, is the question.

If you’re looking for a good picture book, you’ve found one when you pick up Mem Fox’s playful story, Where is the Green Sheep?

What makes a good picture book? Brevity. Clarity. Playfulness. Succinctness.Where is the Green Sheep is less than 200 words total. And yet, Mem Fox worked for months to get those few words just right.

A good picture book is heavily dependent on the illustrations. Judy Horacek’s brightly colored, outlined in black illustrations are the perfect compliment to Mem Fox’s text.

This book makes a great read aloud to one child or a whole class. Picture books don’t have to be in rhyme, and rhyme can be hard to do well. But Mem Fox uses rhyme and rhythm that is music to read aloud. The kids get caught up in looking for the green sheep, and along the way get to meet such loveable characters as blue sheep, red sheep, bath sheep, bed sheep, thin sheep, wide sheep,
swing sheep, slide sheep, and many more. Your child(ren) will be learning colors, opposites, and visual skills. And they will be so caught up in the story, they won’t even realize they are learning!

Mem Fox and Judy Horacek collaborated on this book. It’s not often that the illustrator and the author get to work together. Usually it’s a separate process. I hope to see more from this team. And what is funny to me is, Mem says she doesn’t even like to write picture books! But she’s so “baagone” good at it. (I couldn’t resist 🙂

If you’re a children’s author, educator, or parent, I encourage to to visit Mem Fox’s website. It contains a wealth of information on Mem, her books, and the writing process. Mem even has a video of herself singing one of her books.
Drop by her website at http://www.memfox.net and browse. You’ll be glad you did!

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Picture Books as Friends

I said goodbye to some sweet friends last week. Twelve of them were preschoolers. Do you have or have you ever had preschoolers in your life? They are the most fun, amazing, precious little people. They are excited about the whole wide world! If you have preschoolers in your life, consider yourself most blessed.

I taught  those preschoolers for a few short weeks this summer. Too soon, we had to say, “So long.” Summer session is over at our school. I’ll be going back to work with elementary aged children, who are also delightful to teach and to be around.

But the preschoolers weren’t the only ones I was sad to say goodbye to. I brought suitcase loads of picture books to school. Some of the books are permanent residents of my house. Some are guests from the library. I believe kids need to get their hands on good books…lots of them! If you have  children at home, I hope you have books, books, all around.

I don’t have room or money to give a home to every book I love. So many of the books pay a visit to our home for a few weeks. Both of  my own kids are past preschool. So picture books come to visit  less frequently than they used to. After summer school ended , I took the suitcase full of the week’s picture books from the library and said a fond goodbye…until the next time I get to teach those wondrous preschoolers.

But the time will come when I’ll teach the preschoolers once more. And out will come the picture books…like dear friends, we’ll take back up right where we left off, in the land of possibility.

Stay tuned in the days to come. Before picture books get moved too far back in my mind, I would like to share some of my favorite picture books, authors, and illustrators.

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